United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Hot Springs Division
LORA A. DOUGLASS PLAINTIFF
NANCY BERRYHILL Commissioner, Social Security Administration DEFENDANT
BARRY A. BRYANT U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Douglass (“Plaintiff”) brings this action
pursuant to § 205(g) of Title II of the Social Security
Act (“The Act”), 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) (2006),
seeking judicial review of a final decision of the
Commissioner of the Social Security Administration
(“SSA”) denying her application for Disability
Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) under Title II of the
Act. The parties have consented to the jurisdiction of a
magistrate judge to conduct any and all proceedings in this
case, including conducting the trial, ordering the entry of a
final judgment, and conducting all post-judgment proceedings.
ECF No. 5. Pursuant to this authority, the Court
issues this memorandum opinion and orders the entry of a
final judgment in this matter.
application for DIB was filed on February 2, 2016. (Tr. 16).
Plaintiff alleged she was disabled due to lupus and sjogrens
syndrome. (Tr. 177). Plaintiff alleged an onset date of April
15, 2015. (Tr. 16). This application was denied initially and
again upon reconsideration. Id. Thereafter,
Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing on her
application and this hearing request was granted. (Tr. 101).
administrative hearing was held on October 20, 2016. (Tr.
25-46). Plaintiff was present and was represented by counsel,
Sherri McDonough, at this hearing. Id. Plaintiff and
Vocational Expert (“VE”) Myrtle Johnson testified
at this hearing. Id. At the time of this hearing,
Plaintiff was forty (40) years old and had a high school
education. (Tr. 36).
December 28, 2016, the ALJ entered an unfavorable decision
denying Plaintiff's application for DIB. (Tr. 16-25). In
this decision, the ALJ determined the Plaintiff met the
insured status requirements of the Act through December 31,
2020. (Tr. 18, Finding 1). The ALJ also determined Plaintiff
had not engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity
(“SGA”) since April 15, 2015. (Tr. 18, Finding
determined Plaintiff had the severe impairments of lupus,
headaches, anxiety, depression, and obesity. (Tr. 18, Finding
3). The ALJ then determined Plaintiff's impairments did
not meet or medically equal the requirements of any of the
Listing of Impairments in Appendix 1 to Subpart P of
Regulations No. 4 (“Listings”). (Tr. 18, Finding
decision, the ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's subjective
complaints and determined her RFC. (Tr. 20-23). First, the
ALJ indicated he evaluated Plaintiff's subjective
complaints and found her claimed limitations were not
entirely credible. Id. Second, the ALJ determined
Plaintiff retained the RFC to perform a reduced range of
sedentary work limited to occasional overhead reaching, and
frequent handling and fingering with the left upper
extremity. (Tr. 18).
evaluated Plaintiff's Past Relevant Work
(“PRW”). (Tr. 23, Finding 6). The ALJ found
Plaintiff was unable to perform her PRW. Id. The
ALJ, however, also determined there was other work existing
in significant numbers in the national economy Plaintiff
could perform. (Tr. 24, finding 10). The ALJ based this
determination upon the testimony of the VE. Id.
Specifically, the VE testified that given all Plaintiff's
vocational factors, a hypothetical individual would be able
to perform the requirements of representative occupations
such as call out operator with approximately 8, 400 such jobs
in the nation and surveillance system monitor with
approximately 22, 600 such jobs in the nation Id.
Based upon this finding, the ALJ determined Plaintiff had not
been under a disability as defined by the Act from April 25,
2015, through the date of the decision. (Tr. 25, Finding 11).
Plaintiff requested the Appeals Council review the ALJ's
decision. (Tr. 10). See 20 C.F.R. § 404.968.
The Appeals Council declined to review this unfavorable
decision. (Tr. 1-3). On March 31, 2017, Plaintiff filed the
present appeal. ECF No. 1. The Parties consented to the
jurisdiction of this Court on March 31, 2017. ECF No. 5. Both
Parties have filed appeal briefs. ECF Nos. 13, 14. This case
is now ready for decision.
reviewing this case, this Court is required to determine
whether the Commissioner's findings are supported by
substantial evidence on the record as a whole. See
42 U.S.C. § 405(g) (2006); Ramirez v. Barnhart,
292 F.3d 576, 583 (8th Cir. 2002). Substantial evidence is
less than a preponderance of the evidence, but it is enough
that a reasonable mind would find it adequate to support the
Commissioner's decision. See Johnson v. Apfel,
240 F.3d 1145, 1147 (8th Cir. 2001). As long as there is
substantial evidence in the record that supports the
Commissioner's decision, the Court may not reverse it
simply because substantial evidence exists in the record that
would have supported a contrary outcome or because the Court
would have decided the case differently. See Haley v.
Massanari, 258 F.3d 742, 747 (8th Cir. 2001). If, after
reviewing the record, it is possible to draw two inconsistent
positions from the evidence and one of those positions
represents the findings of the ALJ, the decision of the ALJ
must be affirmed. See Young v. Apfel, 221 F.3d 1065,
1068 (8th Cir. 2000).
well established that a claimant for Social Security
disability benefits has the burden of proving his or her
disability by establishing a physical or mental disability
that lasted at least one year and that prevents him or her
from engaging in any substantial gainful activity. See
Cox v. Apfel, 160 F.3d 1203, 1206 (8th Cir. 1998); 42
U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(1)(A), 1382c(a)(3)(A). The Act
defines a “physical or mental impairment” as
“an impairment that results from anatomical,
physiological, or psychological abnormalities which are
demonstrable by medically acceptable clinical and laboratory
diagnostic techniques.” 42 U.S.C. §§
423(d)(3), 1382(3)(c). A plaintiff must show that his or her
disability, not simply his or her impairment, has lasted for
at least twelve consecutive months. See 42 U.S.C.
determine whether the adult claimant suffers from a
disability, the Commissioner uses the familiar five-step
sequential evaluation. He determines: (1) whether the
claimant is presently engaged in a “substantial gainful
activity”; (2) whether the claimant has a severe
impairment that significantly limits the claimant's
physical or mental ability to perform basic work activities;
(3) whether the claimant has an impairment that meets or
equals a presumptively disabling impairment listed in the
regulations (if so, the claimant is disabled without regard
to age, education, and work experience); (4) whether the
claimant has the Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) to
perform his or her past relevant work; and (5) if the
claimant cannot perform the past work, the burden shifts to
the Commissioner to prove that there are other jobs in the
national economy that the claimant can perform. See
Cox, 160 F.3d at 1206; 20 C.F.R. ...